The Laurel Highlands girls scored the first six points in overtime and then fought off a late charge from visiting Uniontown for a hard-fought 54-49 Section 3-AAAAA victory Friday night.
Tylea Taylor scored on a fast break for a 46-44 lead. Aareanna Griffith extended the lead to four points and Taylor found Griffith open with 1:53 left for a 50-44 lead.
Griffith led all scorers with 21 points.
But, the Lady Raiders (1-10, 1-13) clawed back to within two points with 1:16 left on a baseline jumper and a pair of free throws from Jersey Greer.
The Fillies’ Alessandra Peccon stopped the mini-run when she dribbled through the defense for a layup and a 52-48 lead.
Uniontown’s Amiah DeShields hit 1-of-2 free throw with 9.9 seconds remaining, but Laurel Highlands’ Olivia Crossan hit two foul shots with 1.5 seconds left to seal the win.
Both coaches admitted the overtime and all the drama that goes along with the extra period was a new experience for their teams.
“We’re not used to being in that spot,” said Laurel Highlands coach Rebecca Capozza. “They finally had patience and they listened well to the end.”
“This is my first overtime, as well, as a coach,” admitted Uniontown coach Penny Kezmarsky.
Kezmarsky called a timeout as time wound down to instruct her players to foul with the hope of a rebound, but things didn’t go as planned.
“I wanted them to foul. They are a young team. They have a lot of growing to do,” said Kezmarsky.
Uniontown left a great opportunity to possibly seize control of the game with about three minutes left in regulation. Trailing 42-41, the Lady Raiders missed three very makeable shots inside the paint.
Laurel Highlands controlled the rebound and made the most of Uniontown’s lost opportunity when Taylor drove the lane and made the layup for a 44-41 lead. Taylor finished with 10 points.
“That series, that’s when it fell. We missed the shots and let (Taylor) drive. That was the nail,” said Kezmarsky.
To their credit, the Lady Raiders scored the final three points of regulation when Greer found Nekea Lewis open for a layup and DeShields hit 1-of-2 free throws with 1:27 left to tie the game.
Laurel Highlands (3-9, 4-13) had a good chance to win before the end of the game, but missed a layup.
Uniontown led 13-11 after the first quarter and 23-20 at halftime. Laurel Highlands rallied for a 31-30 lead after three quarters.
The Fillies extended their lead to 36-30 early in the fourth quarter, but Uniontown pulled into a 41-40 lead on DeShields’ layup with 4:21 left.
“There’s improvement, but it’s more in spurts,” said Capozza, adding, “They’re unselfish. They make the extra pass.
“They pulled themselves out of a funk and came back.”
Laurel Highlands won the first game, 54-48, but Kezmarsky said her squad has improved since then.
“We have. We are progressively getting better,” said Kezmarsky. “We are making better choices.
“We were able to come back. We were down eight points (in the second half) to go to overtime.”
Kezmarsky called a time out in the fourth quarter to reel her team back into focus.
“We didn’t have to shoot and pray,” said Kezmarsky of her message in the timeout.
Kezmarsky added, “When we get down, we tend to stay down. We get that intense ‘get down,’ fight or flight.”
Greer led the Lady Raiders with 15 points. DeShields added 11 and drew high praise from her coach.
“Amiah DeShields is just a freshman. That was her best game of the season,” complimented Kezmarsky.
The Fillies complete the regular season and await the WPIAL playoffs.
“We’re going to the playoffs. We took a team vote and they wanted to play,” said Capozza.
Uniontown closes the regular season on Wednesday when the Lady Raiders host Blairsville, completing a stretch of four games in six days in the last week of the season.